@Book{ morgan2005,
	author = {Chad Morgan},
	title = {Planters' Progress: Modernizing Confederate Georgia},
	address = {Gainesville},
	publisher = {University Press of Florida},
	year = 2005,

Morgan argues that elite slaveholders in the antebellum period “sought continually to rouse their region from its economic torpor” (p. 1), and relied on “state governments to act in the place of an independent middle class and to finance economic development” (p. 1). The use of state authority as a financing agent and protection against “modernity’s” disadvantages gradually became a preferred response by slaveholders, until the outbreak of war made it necessary to more fully embrace a “statist” vision of economic progress that reconciled state power with slavery. “What ensued represented a singular historical process: a nonrevolutionary modernization overseen by a landed elite” (p. 1).1

Wartime expansion of industry “from the Rappahannock to the Rio Grande” was at the center of this modernizing project (p. 2), and took two forms:

  1. State ownership of essential war industries like ordnance and munition.
  2. State governments launched “an openhanded incentive program for private entrepreneurs, whose works it controlled almost as thoroughly as state plants” (p. 2).

Yet Morgan takes pains to say these weren’t overnight inventions. Antebellum state governments had already “dominated economic development. Only now there was much more to dominate.” Industrialization was “an elaboration and acceleration of existing tendencies (p. 2).

Chapter 1

Describes the extent of antebellum industrialization in Georgia, which was limited by this dilemma:

Desiring as high a rate of development as was consistent with the continued ascendance of slaveholding interests, southern planters and industrialists could never attain their goal as long as they remained in a union, and thus in competition, with the free-labor North. In that circumstance, limiting manufacturing at all meant marginalizing it. Only after the South severed its ties to the North did the floodgates fly open, both allowing and demanding a comprehensive industrialization that accorded with the dictates of slave society (p. 4).

Chapter 2: Slaveholders and Statists

Morgan notes that although slaveholders (for rational reasons) invested primarily in agriculture, that does not mean they were opposed to economic development. They were opposed, however, to development along Northern lines, and sought an alternative “statist” path in the South: “By soliciting state investment in internal improvement projects, they simultaneously encouraged development and ensured their continued dominance over growing middle and white working classes” (p. 16). A centralizing view of government within states proceeded alongside the growing disillusion with the national centralized government. “Resistance to a society where industrialists’ interests were privileged over planters’ did not imply resistance to industrialization” (p. 17).

In Georgia, expanding state railroad network (which relied on public funds more than northern railroad systems) presaged and abetted other industrializing and urbanizing forces. But this industrialization was not inconsistent with slavery: “By the time of secession, 5 percent of all slaves worked in industry, and manufacturers owned fully 80 percent of the slaves they employed” (p. 20).2

A more serious potential threat to slaveholder-led industrial projects was a growing immigrant white working class, but elites worked to “neutralize” the threat, some by proposing a reopening of the African slave trade. Ultimately, however, elites had less to fear from white workers than they assumed, according to Morgan (p. 21).

Remainder of chapter uses Fitzhugh’s economic theory to argue that

it is a mistake to see Confederate industrialization as a necessary evil, something that slaveholders had forced on them. Prewar planters demonstrated a clear willingness to utilize state power to facilitate economic development. Secession finally gave them an opportunity to pursue a modernity they had long sought. Georgia slaveholders simply did not conform to the prevailing view of a planter class resolutely resistant to industrialization (p. 31).

Chapter 3: State Industry

Argues that Georgia’s government industries “expanded at a spectacular rate as an enormous munitions and supply complex” (p. 32). Morgan suggests that this expansion was actually more impressive than some historians might allow: “in the face of an increasingly impenetrable Union blockage and mounting northern resources, the frequently undersupplied South never lost a battle for want of arms or ammunition” (p. 36). He also notes Georgia’s distinctiveness as a munitions center, which “made its wartime transformation more profound than that of any other southern state” (p. 36).

Together with the factories themselves, the war spawned “an extensive network of government niter caves and beds” (p. 40).

These enterprises were funded primarily by the Confederate government but also, “on a much smaller scale,” by Georgia itself (p. 44)—especially with regard to Georgia’s textile production, which was driven partly by the placement of a card factory “by the Milledgeville penitentiary so it could utilize convict labor” (p. 44).

Chapter 4: “Private” Industry

CSA government also used incentives to encourage private industry, and “Georgia entrepreneurs took full advantage of these inducements to build a robust private industrial economy,” yet it was an economy over which the government still exercised “an extraordinary degree of control” (p. 46). “Confederate jurisdiction over labor sources and railroads meant that businesses thoroughly depended on the state” (p. 46), which also gradually reduced states’ rights in favor of national control.

Morgan also argues that “entrepreneurs’ thoroughgoing reliance on the slaveholders’ government irretrievably compromised their power from the outset” (p. 47), while industrialization actually “consolidated rather than weakened the power of planters” by reducing dependence on the North.

Among the incentives for private industry:

  • CSA Congress made 33% advances on arms and munitions contracts, coal and iron mines, and manufacturing, in August 1861.
  • Congress authorized government to purchase raw materials and machinery, making military a major customer providing constant demand for certain businesses.
  • Banks also essentially became arms of the government.

Yet while extending incentives, “the government never relinquished any real power to producers” (p. 50), and always threatened to take away labor through conscription and impressment. The state government also “used the power to exempt workers from militia duty to obtain favorable contracts with factories” (p. 52), and still held “an effective monopoly of transportation” (p. 52). Moreover, government manipulation of the currency limited margin of error for private entrepreneurs. While they were often blamed for extortionary prices, “general scarcity and the government’s inflationary currency policy made the exorbitant cost of everyday items inevitable” (p. 56).

Finally, the threat of impressment of goods meant that “many manufacturers whom the Confederacy had seduced with generous incentives” had to “produce at a loss or face the seizure of their works” (p. 62).

Chapter 5: Divisions of Labor

Although industrialization might have challenged traditional notions of labor, it mostly conformed to preward expectations: “white men usually worked at skilled jobs. White women did certain kinds of light industrial work. And slaves formed a bottom rail, performing low-skill tasks deemed unsuitable for respectable white men and women” (70).

Discusses the appeal of details for draft exemption, but also the waning willingness of field commanders to grant such exemptions. Industrial plants that were growing had to increasingly request more details, and he offers the Macon Central Laboratory as an anomalous case in which the labor force grew exponentially over the last couple of years of the war thanks to details. In general, “public outrage over details and exemptions aided the army’s fight to retain soldiers” (71), creating a general skilled labor shortage in many Confederate industries.

Yet industries could draw on other labor sources outside men exempted from military service, including women, free blacks, children, and slaves, who “became critical to all Georgia ordnance factories by 1863 (citing mohr1986). Slaves worked mainly in low-skill jobs, and were first to feel the privations of work in the factories. Morgan details the requests made by many enslaved laborers to return home to visit family members, as well as mass flight from the Macon laboratory as Sherman’s army approached.

Morgan suggests that the fact that the Macon Laboratory was never finished or failed to meet all Confederate needs does not mean the experiment in industrial slavery “failed.”

Slave labor played a vital role in the operations of Georgia ordnance facilities from 1862 on, ensuring that Confederate armies were able to take the field until they were finally vanquished (85).

Chapter 6

Discusses the effects of increasing urbanization—slave unrest, swelling refugee population, etc.

  1. Similar argument in wilson2002.

  2. Relies here on starobin1970.